Sustainability has never been more top of mind for brands, merchants and consumers. But how brands communicate their environmental initiatives to shoppers will be critical in a post-pandemic world.
2021 is a fresh start for the retail industry and brands all over the world are strategizing on how to bounce back from a challenging, transformative year.
However, the climate emergency continues to accelerate, and to maintain high brand loyalty and shopper engagement, sustainability efforts need to remain a core focus in brands’ strategies.
In fact, a recent study showed that two-thirds of shoppers today prefer eco-friendly brands – and that number is only rising.
From pushing for circular fashion to advocating for sustainable sourcing, Gen-Z and millennial shoppers are rewarding brands that not only pay attention to climate change but make bold moves to address it. This new generation of shoppers, many of whom have come of age during the pandemic, are happy to put in the extra work to find environmentally friendly items and are looking for assurance that products they purchase and the brands they are loyal to are taking steps to minimize their environmental impact.
In-store experiences are important to these eco-conscious shoppers. They can get advice 1:1 about how products are made and where they come from, avoid the carbon footprint from shipping, and more. So how do brands preserve this online? That’s where virtual stores come in. A virtual store takes the whole browsing experience you’d expect IRL and brings it to life online.
Leading brands today are winning over eco-conscious shoppers with their virtual stores. Here’s how:
Real advice from experts who care
Brands that care about the environment invest in-store teams that care, and there is no one better than them to build relationships with online shoppers. From the ingredients in a specific shade of lipstick to the amount of water used to craft a new pair of jeans, a virtual store makes it easy for product experts to dive into the details eco-conscious shoppers care about. Experts can connect live with these shoppers through text, chat, and video calls to help find the products that best align with their values.
The Detox Market recognized how important expert advice was to their shoppers. They wanted their online clean beauty marketplace to have access to the same experience in-store shoppers had, so they turned to retail tech to do just that. The brand launched a virtual store experience led by its team of green makeup artists, estheticians, naturopaths, nutritionists, and beauty experts who review and approve all Detox Market products.
Today these experts are available to answer the most challenging online shopper questions about clean and green beauty in real-time, just like they would IRL. Their advice on green products makes shoppers more confident to buy than ever: Online shoppers of The Detox Market are now converting at a rate of 27% – 10x higher than the beauty industry average.
Virtual consultations = less returns
Purchasing online can often feel like a gamble. There’s no guarantee that products will fit or that they will be exactly right. With more customers moving online, shoppers in the U.S. returned an estimated $428 billion in purchases in 2020.
The possibility of accidentally purchasing something wasteful or sending in a return can be a significant deterrent from buying something new online. Landfill waste from returns alone contributes 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year.
Virtual stores empower shoppers to buy exactly what they are looking for. One-to-one video consultations with product experts give them a personalized view into how products are likely to fit on their body, in their home, and more.
This added personal touch increases shopper confidence and minimizes the possibility of having to send back a return. If something’s personally recommended, we’re all less likely to send it back. When American fashion brand FRAME launched its virtual stores, its average order values increased by 61%. Shoppers were ready to buy products that they knew they would keep.
Local shopping, from home
Shopping locally can be better for the environment than ordering products online, especially if you’re purchasing from Amazon. But online shopping also minimizes the need for travel to and from stores while browsing. Plus, it’s convenient. Virtual stores can give eco-conscious shoppers the best of both worlds.
Brands use retail tech in their virtual store experiences that can connect online shoppers to an expert in a store nearby. From there, shoppers can message the store to inquire about product availability, arrange a time to visit the store, or schedule a curbside pickup. They no longer need to have packages mailed home or travel around all day looking for the perfect item.
It’s never been more critical for brands to build relationships with online shoppers centered around shared values. Virtual stores give product experts and brands a platform to make it clear to shoppers that they care about the planet, too.